Spacewalkers Add Tool Kit, Cameras to Station's New Robot

Spacewalkers Add Tool Kit, Cameras to Station's New Robot
Endeavour astronaut Robert Behnken works on the maintenance robot Dextre at the ISS during a March 17, 2008 spacewalk high above Earth, the third of NASA's STS-123 mission. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

Thisstory was updated at 4:13 a.m. EDT.

HOUSTON -Two spacewalking astronauts added a tool kit and camera eyes to theInternational Space Station?s (ISS) new mechanical handyman late Monday,priming the two-armed robot for its big move to orbiting laboratory?s hull.

Endeavourshuttle astronauts Rick Linnehan and Robert Behnken attached the new tools toDextre, a massiveCanadian-built robot designed to replace flesh-and-blood spacewalkers on moreroutine maintenance work outside the ISS.

?Happy St.Patrick?s Day guys and have a great EVA,? said astronaut Mike Foreman, usingNASA?s term for a spacewalk as he choreographed the excursion from insideEndeavour.

?I forgotit was St. Paddy?s day,? said Linnehan. ?We should have worn our green[spacesuits].?

Mondaynight?s spacewalk began at 6:51 p.m. EDT (2251 GMT) and ran six hours and 53minutes in duration. The outing marked the sixth career excursion for Linnehan andthe first for Behnken, who will also participate in two more spacewalks laterthis week.

?Go get ?emBam Bam,? Linnehan said, using a nickname for Behnken. ?You?ve got anappointment with Mr. Dextre.?

Linnehanand Behnken outfittedDextre with a three-tool kit designed to allow the $209-million robot torelease latches and locks, remove bolts and grasp broken station batteries andother hardware outside the ISS. They also gave the 12-foot (3.7-meter) tallrobot a set of camera eyes and lights, as well as a 6-foot (almost 2-meter)long boom to hold spare parts and tools during trips to and from work sites.

Thespacewalk marked the third in a series to complete the 3,440-pound(1,560-kilogram) robot?s construction after astronauts attached its hand-likegrippers and 11-foot (3.4-meter) arms in twoearlier excursions. Built by the Canadian Space Agency, the Dextre launchedto the ISS in nine separate pieces attached to a cargo pallet in Endeavour?scargo bay. The fully assembled automaton is due to be moved to the exterior ofthe station?s U.S. Destiny laboratory late Tuesday.

In additionto their Dextre work, Linnehan and Behnken deliveredspare parts for the station?s Canadarm2 robotic arm and electrical powergrid to an exterior storage platform. But a stubborn materials exposureexperiment resisted repeated attempts by Behnken to secure it in place outsidethe space station?s European-built Columbus lab.

ZebulonScoville, lead spacewalk officer for Endeavour?s flight, said theexperiment?s anchoring pins appeared to be too fat for their allotted slots.

Engineersare studying potential fixes for the suitcase-sized experiment, which may include simply tyingit down with tethers during one of the next two spacewalks, scheduled for Thursdayand Saturday, respectively. Aside from the balky pins, the spacewalk wentextremely well, mission managers said.

?This reallywas the kind of spacewalk that, when it?s all done, you just want to put yourhands up in the air and howl at the moon,? Scoville said. ?It really was agreat day for us.?

While thetwo spacewalkers toiled outside the ISS, their crewmates inside the stationwere hard at work in the station?s new JapaneseLogistics Pressurized module. Endeavour astronauts delivered the small, attic-likeroom - the first piece of Japan?s massive Kibo laboratory - last week.

?Tell Takaohis module looks beautiful,? said Behnken, referring to Japanese astronaut Takao Doi in charge ofoutfitting the new module.

?Don?t maketoo much noise,? Foreman added. ?Takao?s working hard in there.?

By the endof Monday?s overnight excursion, Behnken racked up six hours and 53 minutes ofspacewalking time as he makes his first spaceflight. Linnehan, now on hisfourth spaceflight, ended with a grand total of 42 hours and 24 minutes ofspacewalking time across four spaceflights. Linnehan, who performed three ofhis six spacewalks during Endeavour?s current STS-123 mission, now ranks 11thon the list of the world?s most experienced spacewalkers.

Bycoincidence, the spacewalkers ended their orbital work on the 43rd anniversaryof the first spacewalk in history; a 12-minute excursion by cosmonaut AlexeiLeonov on March 18, 1965.

?I think Ijust maybe saw the Southern Cross, and definitely a satellite flying over,?said Linnehan as he gazed out into space from the tip of the station's robotarm. ?Two satellites, three satellites, wow.?

NASA isbroadcasting Endeavour's STS-123 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for'sshuttle mission coverage and NASA TV feed.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.